Roving spirits

CARL RICHARDS and Albert Ter Horst have enough stories about Fremantle to fill a library.

And the pair’s plans for the port city fill an entire afternoon of conversation; seemingly without time to take a breath.

They almost resemble father and son sitting on a couch on Mr Richards’ back verandah, finishing each other’s sentences.

The pair, along with Mr Ter Horst’s daughter Caitlin, own historic eco-yacht Tropic Rover, which hails from Queensland and was used in Hollywood films, documentaries and even appeared in the TV series Flipper.

Mr Ter Horst and Mr Richards now have plans to use the boat to cruise passengers around Rottnest while sharing food and stories about Fremantle.


In the down season the boat would give the disadvantaged and homeless a taste of life on the high seas.

“We want to use this boat to help make Fremantle alive again,” says Mr Ter Horst, who most locals would recognise as the “bird whistle man” at the Fremantle markets

(His bird whistle business is a story in itself, set up while he was in Indonesia in 1996 and it now helps contribute to improving the village’s infrastructure).

The two men are bound by the loss of Mr Richards’ father Lionel, who was Mr Ter Horst’s closest friend.

“I learnt a lot from Carl’s father,” says Mr Ter Horst.

Lionel Richards led quite a remarkable life, from being executive producer of Hollywood star Mel Gibson’s first-ever movie (1977’s psycho-drama Summer City) to setting up Freo’s seminal 24-hour burger joint Captain Munchies in 1984.

“It was so busy there were armed guards sometimes,” Mr Ter Horst says of the burger joint’s heyday.

•  Carl Richards with his niece and Albert Ter Horst on Tropic Rover. Photo supplied

“I would be flipping burgers while my dad manned the till,” adds Mr Richards.

But where the money ended up is somewhat of a mystery, with Mr Richards’ father literally burying his takings all over Fremantle because he didn’t like banks.

“Because they take a percentage of everything,” laughs Mr Ter Horst.

“He used to bury the money, hide it under my bed and all over the place,” says Mr Richards.

“I often dream about where it is.”

Mr Richards says when his dad passed away in 2005, Mr Ter Horst became like a second father.

“Albert and my dad were best mates,” says Mr Richards. “Alby is a real rock for me and countless other Fremantle kids.”

Mr Ter Horst seems as much a part of Fremantle’s history as the Fremantle Doctor that is blowing as he speaks.

He was born in 1951 in Holland and arrived in Fremantle in the same year.

“My mother and father split up and my big sister and I lived with mum in the last Fremantle tram,” he says.

“The tram was converted as a caravan and we lived in it at Coogee Beach.”

From humble beginnings, over the next six decades Mr Ter Horst made a name for himself as a highly successful business man and integral part of Fremantle’s history.

Roo on the Roof, New Orlean’s Bourban and Beef Steak Restaurant, Beads and Bangles, Gem World, Wild Bull Burgers and Sun Souvenirs were all owned and managed by the ambitious entrepreneur.

He also set up the first backpackers in Fremantle, which is now Sundancer Backpackers on High Street.

His most recent project is Tropic Rover, which he purchased 10 years ago. He has since poured everything he has into restoring the boat.

Now, as Mr Ter Horst plans to retire, his daughter Caitlin and Mr Richards will be taking over Tropic Rover in partnership.

Mr Richards says they will honour Mr Ter Horst’s plans to create a charter boat that can be enjoyed by all the community.

“We want to share this experience with those less fortunate as well,” he says.

This idea continues a legacy Mr Ter Horst began nearly 20 years ago, when he noticed half a dozen street kids tagging one of his buildings.

Rather than tell them off, he asked them if they’d like to go on his boat. They gave him some lip, but an hour later their inquisitive nature took over and they fronted up on the dock. One of the young gang is now a deckhand on the Tropic Rover.

Mr Richards says he plans to team up with former Dockers player Scott Chisholm and Dr Kaine Grigg from FreoMindfulness to work out ways to use the boat to give back to the community.

“We don’t want to use the boat to drink beers and sit around; we want to use the boat to talk and listen,” he says.

Mr Richards says the Tropic Rover should be up and running by the beginning of September.


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